Potatoes

Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Potatoes

Potatoes
Pixabay

Wondering how to grow potatoes? We’re here to help! This half-hardy vegetable is a culinary staple that is overlooked by many backyard gardeners. Here’s how to grow potatoes in your garden!

The taste and the texture of home-grown potatoes are far superior to those of store-bought spuds, especially the early varieties. They need a cool climate, and also need to be watched to prevent sunburn. In warmer climate zones, potatoes can be grown as a winter crop.

Planting

How to Plant Potatoes

  • Plant seed potatoes (pieces of whole potato or a small whole potato, with at least 2 eyes per piece) 0-2 weeks after last spring frost. (See local frost dates.)
  • You may start planting earlier, as soon as soil can be worked, but be aware that some crops will be ruined by a frost.
  • If you are cutting up potato pieces for planting, do so 1-2 days ahead of time. This will give them the chance to “heal” and form a protective layer, both for moisture retention and rot resistance.
  • Spread and mix in rotted manure or organic compost in the bottom of the trench before planting. (Learn more about soil amendments and preparing soil for planting.)
  • Plant seed potatoes one foot apart in a 4-inch deep trench, eye side up.
  • Practice yearly crop rotation.
  • See our video on how to grow potatoes in a trash can, the easiest-ever container garden!
  • Before planning your garden, take a look at our plant companions chart to see which veggies are most compatible with potatoes.

Care

How to Grow Potatoes

  • Potatoes thrive in well-drained, loose soil.
  • Potatoes need consistent moisture, so water regularly when tubers start to form.
  • Hilling should be done before the potato plants bloom, when the plant is about 6 inches tall. Hoe the dirt up around the base of the plant in order to cover the root as well as to support the plant. Bury them in loose soil.
  • Hilling keeps the potatoes from getting sunburned, which can cause them to turn green and produce a chemical called solanine. Solanine gives off a bitter taste and is toxic, so do not eat green potatoes.
  • You will need to hill potatoes every couple of weeks to protect your crop.

Pests/Diseases

  • Aphids
  • Flea Beetles
  • Leaf Hoppers
  • Early/Late Blight
  • Potato Scab: Most likely cause by a high soil pH. Remember: Potatoes like acidic soil (do not plant in soil with a pH higher than 5.2). Dust seed potatoes with sulfur before planting.

Harvest/Storage

How to Harvest Potatoes

  • When you should harvest depends on what type of potato you have planted. Early-season potatoes take approximately 60–70 days to mature; mid-season, approximately 80; and late-season, more than 90.
  • For the biggest and best potatoes, harvest only after the plant’s foliage has died back. Cut browning foliage to the ground and wait 10–14 days before harvesting to allow the potatoes to develop a thick enough skin. Don’t wait too long, though, or the potatoes may rot.
  • Dig potatoes on a dry day. Dig up gently, being careful not to puncture the tubers. The soil should not be compact, so digging should be easy.
  • Allow freshly dug potatoes to sit in a dry, cool place (45°–60°F) for up to two weeks. This allows their skins to “cure,” which will help them keep for longer.
  • “New potatoes,” which are potatoes that are purposefully harvested early for their smaller size and tender skin, will be ready for harvest after about 10 weeks, usually in early July.
  • New potatoes should not be cured and should be eaten within a few days of harvest, as they will not keep for much longer.
  • After curing, make sure you brush off any soil clinging to the potatoes, then store them in a cool, dry, dark place. The ideal temperature for storage is 35–40°F.
  • Do not store potatoes with apples; their ethylene gas will cause potatoes to spoil.
  • Whether you dig your own potatoes or buy them at a store, don’t wash them until right before you use them. Washing potatoes shortens their storage life.
  • Find more tips on getting potatoes ready for the root cellar.

 

Recommended Varieties

Wit & Wisdom

Potato promoter Antoine Parmentier convinced Marie Antoinette to wear potato blossoms in her hair.

Grated potatoes are said to soothe sunburnt skin.

“What I say is that if a man really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.”
A. A. Milne, English writer (1882–1956)

Recipes

Botanical Name: 

Solanum tuberosum

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